Friday, March 27, 2015
By Joseph Capriglione : WNYC/NJPR
Friday, March 27, 2015
Friday, December 07, 2012
With the election behind us and several new Democrats on their way to Washington, Senate majority leader Harry Reid intends to push controversial filibuster reform through Congress. But in order to do that, he’ll have to convince some fellow Democrats who are currently on the fence. Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich explains.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
By Solomon Kleinsmith : IAFC Blogger
I'd like to think that the positive sounding things that House Majority Leader John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama have been saying, but much of their comments include worrisome hedging.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 327 – 98, the House of Representatives approved Ron Paul’s “Audit the Fed” bill Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
(UPDATED WITH HARRY REID'S COMMENTS) There are varying degrees of pessimism and cautious optimism in the US Capitol today as House and Senate negotiators huddle for a last try at agreement on a Highway Bill. But one lawmaker close to the House Republican leadership says conference negotiations have failed and that a six-month extension is afoot.
"Zero," said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), when asked about the chances of last-ditch conference negotiations yielding an agreement before next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is set to meet with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 4 PM today. Chief negotiators Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) are also scheduled to be in on the meeting. "The purpose is to come up with a clean extension" of six months, LaTourette said in an interview.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid disputed that assessment, saying it was not accurate that leaders are set to negotiate on a six-month extension this afternoon.
LaTourette's comments are in contrast to more optimistic statements from other negotiators who are trying to put the best light possible on the faltering talks. Indeed, nothing stops conference talks from producing a deal even while leaders are laying the groundwork for failure.
Republicans and Democrats are still at odds on several policy areas, including streamlining environmental reviews for road projects, transportation "enhancements" that push highway money toward bike paths and beautification projects, and program consolidations.
That's before leaders even tackle politically charged issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and EPA regulations governing coal ash.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va) emerged from a Democrats-only meeting in the Capitol Tuesday to say none of the issues was insolvable. "I still rate it above 50%," Rahall said of the chances of an agreement before a June 30 deadline.
How far above 50%? "Fifty-one," he said.
Freshman negotiator Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) agreed with with Rahall's tepid assessment. "Everybody's staring at each other right now and waiting for someone to blink," he said.
LaTourette, meanwhile, suggested House and Senate leaders would start ironing out a 6-month highway bill extension that would hit the floor if and when conference negotiators fail. That agreement is likely to contain some extra money for river and harbor dredging programs in order to win over some balking Republicans, he said.
Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
People with a stake in the billions of dollars worth of highway funds and gas taxes may have breathed a temporary sigh of relief a few hours ago when Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica said the GOP would opt for a temporary extension next week.
Not so fast.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he's not interested in putting a temporary extension of the Highway bill on the Senate floor if the House passes one next week, given that the Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion version of its own last week with 74 votes.
The current Highway bill extension runs out March 31. That means the Senate can keep the program going by passing the House's temporary extension, which will likely include a motion to go to conference with the Senate.
"I'm not inclined to do that," Reid told reporters Tuesday.
If Reid sticks to his guns, that leaves Option Two: Force the House to swallow the Senate's two-year bill or, Option Three: Risk being held responsible for a shutdown reminiscent of last summer's Federal Aviation Administration shutdown fiasco.
Time is running short, and House Republicans have already said they won't try for a version of their 5-year bill before the Easter recess. "There's plenty of time for the House to pass our bill," a Senate Democratic leadership aid says.
The aide wouldn't go so far as to close down all possibilities of a temporary extension as House Republicans now want. But the tough talk has started, and along with it a game of chicken with a March 31 deadline.
"The House had their chance, and they blew it," the aide said.
Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich
Monday, October 24, 2011
President Obama continues to barnstorm the country for the American Jobs Act. He'll stop in Nevada today -- Harry Reid's home state -- and Denver on Wednesday to push portions of the American Jobs Act, which includes $60 billion infrastructure proposal -- $50 billion in straight-up spending, and another $10 billion for an infrastructure bank.
Most of the $50 billion in spending is targeted for repair work, which can get money out the door much more quickly than the new "shovel ready" projects in his earlier stimulus.
But handicappers give the bill almost no chance of passing. So you can read the President's trip to key swing states -- Nevada and Colorado, both of which he won in 2008, and both of which held on to Democratic Senate seats in 2010 while states all around were going red -- for what it is: a chance to shore up support where support will be needed in 2012.
Here's an excerpt of the President's Remarks at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada:
And three years later, it's clear that a big chunk of Washington has not gotten the message yet. Just look at what's been going on since I introduced my jobs bill in September. Now, this is a bill that is filled with proposals that, traditionally, Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past: tax cuts for workers and small businesses; funding to rebuild our roads and our bridges and our airports, our infrastructure, our transportation system; putting construction workers back on the job; hiring back teachers and cops, firefighters; giving incentives so that veterans are able to find work when they come home -- because, I promise you, if you've laid down your life or risked your life for this country, you should not have to fight for a job when you come home. (Applause.)
So those are the proposals contained in this bill. It's a bill that's fully paid for -- by asking those of us who make more than $1 million to pay a little more in taxes. Independent economists, people who look at this stuff for a living, say that it's the only plan out there right now that would create jobs in the short term as well as lay a foundation for economic growth in the long term. One economist said it would create nearly 2 million jobs next year -- 2 million. And by the way, that economist did not work for me. And polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans support the proposals that are in this bill -- Democrats, independents and Republicans.
So we've got huge challenges in places like Nevada. We've got a jobs bill out there that is paid for and addresses those challenges. The question is, why, despite all the support -- despite all the experts who say this jobs bill couldn't come at a more important time, when so many people are hurting -- why the Republicans in Washington have said no? They keep voting against it. Now, maybe it's just because I am the one sponsoring it. I don't know. But last week, we had a separate vote on a part of the jobs bill that would put 400,000 teachers, firefighters and police officers back on the job, paid for by asking people who make more than $1 million to pay one-half of 1 percent in additional taxes. For somebody making $1.1 million a year, that's an extra $500. Five hundred bucks. And with that, we could have saved $400,000 jobs.
Most people making more than $1 million, if you talk to them, they'll say, I'm willing to pay $500 extra to help the country. They’re patriots. They believe we’re all in this thing together. But all the Republicans in the Senate said no. Their leader, Mitch McConnell, said that -- and I’m going to make sure I quote this properly -- saving the jobs of teachers and cops and firefighters was just -- I quote -- “a bailout.” A bailout. These aren’t bad actors who somehow screwed up the economy. They didn’t act irresponsibly. These are the men and women who teach our children, who patrol our streets, who run into burning buildings and save people. They deserve our support.
This is the fight that we’re going to have right now, and I suspect this is the fight that we’re going to have to have over the next year. The Republicans in Congress and the Republican candidates for President have made their agenda very clear. They have two basic economic principles: first, tax cuts for the very wealthiest and the biggest corporations, paid for by gutting investments in education and research and infrastructure and programs like Medicare. That’s agenda item number one. Second is just about every regulation that's out there they want to get rid of -- clean air, clean water -- you name it.
Now, I agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on business at a time when we can’t afford it. I mean, we’ve seen this in our travel bureau, where the bureaucracy for getting a visa to come visit Vegas is too long. We want to get them here quicker; they can stay longer and spend more. And that’s why, in addition to what we’re doing with the travel bureau, we’ve already identified 500 regulatory reforms that will save billions of dollars over the next few years -- billions of dollars over the next few years. But unfortunately, so far at least, we have not gotten any willingness on the other side to say that some regulations we can’t give up.
We are not going to win the race in this competitive 21st century economy by having the cheapest labor or the most polluted air. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win. There’s always going to be a country out there that can exploit its workers more, or pollute its air more, or pollute its water more, have lower worker safety standards. There’s always going to be somebody out there to win that competition. The competition we need to win is because we have the best scientists, and we’ve got the best universities, and we’ve got the best workers, and we have the best infrastructure, and we’ve got the best resorts, and we’ve got the best ideas, and we’ve got the best system, and it’s the most transparent and it’s the most accountable. That’s how we’re going to win the competition for the future. And that’s what’s at stake right now in this race.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
By Justin Krebs : IAFC Blogger
-Justin Krebs, It's A Free Country blogger.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Reid issued a statement Thursday afternoon. It reads: “I am pleased to announce that we have been able to broker a bipartisan compromise between the House and the Senate to put 74,000 transportation and construction workers back to work. This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain. But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”
President Obama applauded the deal in a statement: "I'm pleased that leaders in Congress are working together to break the impasse involving the FAA so that tens of thousands of construction workers and others can go back to work. We can't afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery, so this is an important step forward."
In essence, the deal amounts to a temporary disarmament from both Republicans and Democrats. According to Senate aides, the Senate is prepared to accept the House's bill, the one that pared back the Essential Air Service subsidy program for rural airports. BUT the Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will use his authority to waive that provision.
Translation: The Senate swallows the House bill it hated, but the Obama Administration uses its authority to keep actual policy where it was.
A spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) confirmed the deal.
The Senate could push the deal through as early as Friday.
LaHood issued this statement moments after Reid announced the deal: "This is a tremendous victory for American workers everywhere. From construction workers to our FAA employees, they will have the security of knowing they are going to go back to work and get a paycheck -- and that's what we've been fighting for. We have the best aviation system in the world and we intend to keep it that way."
Notice the part of Reid's statement making it clear that difficult issues still remain between Republicans and Democrats on the FAA. The Essential Air Service issue will still have to be solved, as will a bruising fight over Obama Administration rules that made it easier for workers airline and rail employees to unionize. We'll be back at this in September.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
By Solomon Kleinsmith : IAFC Blogger
-Solomon Kleinsmith, It's A Free Country blogger.
Monday, July 25, 2011
(With Todd Zwillich in Washington, DC) UPDATED WITH COMMENTS FROM SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER As federal talks on a debt ceiling and deficit reductions remain stalemated, at least one federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, is already a casualty of a House-Senate impasse. The FAA partially shut down Friday, furloughing employees and bringing construction projects to a halt, after the House inserted a provision to strip out subsidies for rural airports into a routine funding extension bill.
No safety services have been affected.
The FAA is also no longer collecting taxes, but airline travelers aren't getting any relief: see related story here.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) told reporters Monday he has “no idea” when the FAA will re-open.
For his part, Senator Jay Rockefeller, (D-WV) Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, issued a statement saying he "was appalled that the House went through on its dangerous threats last week to hold the entire FAA bill hostage to their politics. This issue is too serious for a stalemate because the House leadership is insisting on a provision pushed primarily by Delta Airlines to benefit their anti-worker agenda. That provision has already been rejected by the Senate, and the President says he'll veto it, so it is a non-starter."
The House and Senate have been discussing re-authorization for the FAA for several years. This partial shutdown is the result of a prolonged stalemate in those negotiations. In the long-term bill, Republicans are advocating for a provision--the one Rockefeller referred to as "pushed" by Delta--that overturns a rule approved last year that would make it easier for airline and railroad workers to unionize.
On Wednesday the House passed its 21st extension of the 2007 FAA re-authorization, but added in a provision that would shut down three rural airports, including one in Nevada, home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Mica is pointing figures at the Senate: “This is sort of sad,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill today, including Transportation Nation’s Todd Zwillich. You know on the eve of the country’s finances near collapse, it's sort of -- I don’t know, symbolic of the whole problem here. No one is willing to eliminate any wasteful programs.” Mica says his bill only affects three airports that, he says, receive federal subsidies of $1,500 to $3,700 per ticket.
But Senator Jay Rockefeller, IV, D-WVA, Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, told Transportation Nation's Todd Zwillich that closing down the three rural airports is a red herring.
"That's the appearance that they put forward, in their letter to me they didn't ever mention the national mediation board," Rockefeller said.
"But believe me that's it. He has told me, Mica's told me on a number of occasions that he doesn't have a dog that hunts on the Essential Air Services" -- which shuts down three rural airports that receive heavy government subsidies. " That's not what their point is, their point is that they want to reverse 75 years of labor law."
Rockefeller said House Republicans were following the direction of Delta Airlines on this.
When asked if reporters should "conclude they're jamming you guys on a FAA shutdown to get you to relent on what Delta wants," Rockefeller responded in the affirmative. "They just went to the Essential Air Service as a way of covering up their real point which is anti-worker. Which I'm not going to do."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the Senate will not consider the House version of the bill, period.
The shutdown has made U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood apoplectic with rage, insofar as the amiable former congressman can ever be full of rage: “Construction workers across America will lose their jobs and local communities will be hurt the longer this goes on. Congress needs to pass an FAA bill to prevent further economic damage,” said LaHood in a statement. “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”
But a source familiar with Congress says Mica's action "breaks faith" with the negotiation process. The source says it is "unheard of" to use a funding extension to enact a policy shift rather than continuing the status quo while negotiations on a full re-authorization bill proceed.
The House committee chairman claims the Senate's bill would have shut down the three airports, too. And he added, ominously: “If I have to do additional extensions they will not like what will be in them.”
Listen to Mica's exchange with reporters here:
Mica: You know -- we’ve had this extension over there since last Wednesday. I’m sad that the Senate would leave -- allow more than 4,000 employees to be left behind. The only difference in the extension -- it is a clean extension, the only thing we added was language that they passed related to [the] Essential Air Service [program] and we had a small addition prohibiting subsidies for any Essential Air Service that was subsidized more than $1,000 a ticket, which only affects three airports in the country, one in Nevada, Montana and New Mexico. Right now it’s in the senate and I just have no idea when we’ll open FAA again.
Zwillich: Are you in discussions, are you having discussions with Chairman [Jay] Rockefeller?
Mica: I have not today, I’m willing -- I’ve had great discussions with Rockefeller we are just about through with every one of the items for re-authorization, you know. This has been going on for five years I’ve had five months to try to settle it but it’s sad.
Zwillich: What have you heard from the leadership? Is there a desire to solve this this week or are they distracted with debt?
Mica: It really is for the leadership of the Senate to resolve it. It’s over there, we passed an extension, extensions good to the 16th we should be able to finish this -- we could finish them in one hour.
Zwillich: They think you’re trying to jam them with this EAS --you know how they feel about it.
Mica: They passed this -- We took the exact language on essential air service and I’m told, even the three airports where we did add -- three airports that get more than $1,000 subsidy -- that those airports would have been affected by their language so we’ve basically taken their language and sent it back over there and that’s why they’re -- And Republicans on the Senate side agree too, you know, let’s take the extension, get FAA opened up and finalize the negotiations. It’s a pretty heavy penalty to pay for three airports and you know, one of the subsidies -- the one in Nevada is $3,700 per ticket. It’s outrageous.
Reporter: Rockefeller has introduced a clean extension in the Senate – If they send you a clean extension back will you guys accept that?
Mica: I don’t make those decisions. Let me introduce you to Mr. Cantor. He’s the gentleman from Virginia. Maybe you could ask him or his staff. I’m just a mere committee chairman. –
Reporter: Has the leadership indicated whether they will accept that or not?
Mica: We have done our due diligence we have sent this over, its been there since last Wednesday. This is sort of sad you know on the eve of the country’s finances near collapse its sort of I don’t know symbolic of the whole problem here no one is willing to eliminate any wasteful programs…this doesn’t have a dramatic effect, granted, on finances. But to continue these subsidies when the senate has passed this language they said well, it’s not common to have legislation on an extension. That’s not true they put an entire bill on one of the 17 extensions. They did. Tey said we didn’t appoint a conference committee, we’ve pre-conferenced. They had no bill passed the first two years they had this so there was no conference. And then we had five months until we went out of session and they never appointed conferees, so every argument they can raise about the House’s action is invalid.
Zwillich: What’s the score of the EAS language, how much are you saving?
Mica: It’s in the millions, I can’t tell you but you know, the EAS is symbolic of what’s wrong with Washington. It grew from a $50 million program ten years ago to in the neighborhood of $200 million. We can’t eliminate subsidies at airports that have service within 90 miles or that are subsidizing each ticket between $1,500 and $3,700 for three airports. No more needs to be said.
Reporter: What about the labor provision?
Mica: That’s not anything to do with the extension we’ve sent them a clean extension with the EAS provision that they passed. If I have to do additional extensions they will not like what will be in them.
Friday, April 15, 2011
By Justin Krebs : IAFC Blogger
Now that we're done chuckling at Democrats, let's really look at what the Republicans are doing here: The one-two punch of distraction and destruction, which is their signature move. This annual gathering brings 6,000 people to a town with a population of 17,000, which has enormous, positive economic impact on the city. Are Republicans against culture because it contributes economically?
-Justin Krebs on the ridiculed budget item that helps fund a Cowboy Poety festival in Nevada.
Friday, April 08, 2011
It feels a little like watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve—only, everyone's dreading midnight. The government shutdown is mere hours away. Those hardest hit will be federal employees, who won't see their paychecks for a while. For the rest of us, here are ten things that will experience turbulence if and when the government shuts down.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
At 8:45 pm Wednesday night, President Obama will sit down with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try and hammer out a last-minute budget compromise before the government shuts down on Friday.
A shutdown would mean furloughing thousands of government employees, delaying Social Security payments to seniors, and closing national parks, among other things. Freezing federal business is also more expensive than business as usual. With all these negative consequences looming beyond this Friday's budget deadline, nobody wants a government shutdown...or do they?
Monday, February 14, 2011
(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Transportation projects are set to take a massive, immediate hit under a spending bill headed for the floor of the House of Representatives this week.
Republicans are aiming to cut nearly $15.5 billion from the section of the budget carrying transportation and housing funding. The money comes out of highway projects, infrastructure investments, and particularly high-speed rail.
The bill, what’s known in Washington as a continuing resolution, funds the government from March 4 through the end of September, 2011. Overall it contains around $63 billion in immediate cuts from current spending levels across the government. It’s all part of Republicans' pledge to reduce immediately reduce spending, and it could go even further by the time the bill is done being amended on the floor.
It’s also prelude to a broader budget fight hitting Washington this week. President Obama unveils his Fiscal 2012 budget plan Monday morning. That covers spending beginning October 1, 2011, and its big transportation highlight--$53 billion in high-speed rail funding—is already attracting Republican derision.
“We’re broke,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning. He repeated the refrain all week as Democrats, and even some Republicans, complained about the pain such immediate cuts could cause.
Before we look at specifics, keep in mind: After passing the House, this bill still needs to get through the Senate, where Democrats have a majority and lawmakers overall are considerably less enthusiastic about immediate discretionary spending cuts than are their House colleagues.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a conservative member of the Appropriations Committee and a spending hawk, acknowledged late last week that the aim of the deep-cutting House bill was two-fold: To fulfill Republicans campaign promises and to go into negotiations with the Senate “with as big a number as possible.”
A good chunk of that big number will come out of high-speed rail, if the House GOP gets its way. The continuing resolution hitting the House floor this week goes after $2.475 billion in funding already sent out to rail projects under stimulus and from other sources. It also seeks to hold back another $2.5 billion in high-speed rail funding yet to go out the door.
But rail isn’t alone. The bill cuts $600 million in general “national infrastructure investments," and takes another $600 million-plus from Federal Aviation Administration. Highways take a major hit as well, with $650 million slated for cuts to the Federal Highway Administration’s general fund and another $293 million in cuts to “surface transportation priorities”.
Democrats are predictably incensed at the GOP package. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused Republicans of taking a “meat axe” to the federal budget. House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), responded to the GOP proposals by backing a quick, and ultimately failed floor attempt to renew “Build America Bonds” for infrastructure funding.
“When you say they want to cut transportation, we know right away that’s a false economy,” Pelosi said to an organized labor crowd including members of the United Steel Workers on Thursday.
But the House’s cuts in general, and high-speed rail cuts in particular, are music to the ears of many Senate Republicans, at least publicly. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee said Thursday that high-speed rail projects were not efficient at stoking economic growth and should be killed.
The continuing resolution is set to hit the House floor Tuesday for at least two days of debate and amendments, possibly more. Conservative lawmakers are promising attempts to cut even more from federal spending right away. According to Boehner, if successful amendments lead to even deeper immediate cuts this week, “that’s fine.”
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Spanish language television network Univision is refusing to air a new political ad in Nevada for its controversial message to Latinos: "Don't vote." Univision says the ad is antithetical to its mission to promote civic engagement in the Latino community.
The spot was produced by a group called Latinos for Reform, which says that Democrats take Latino votes for granted and didn't use their majorities in Congress to address immigration reform. Critics, however, complain that Latinos for Reform's president, Robert de Posada, has long ties to the Republican party and is looking to hurt re-election chances for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.